When Chris Cochran started his part-time job with Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) in 1997, he had no idea that 25 years later he would still be serving others with the nonprofit; and it’s all because God hasn’t told him it’s time to leave yet.
“Well, I ask that question of God…he hasn’t said it’s time to leave yet,” Cochran said when asked about his years spent with LSC. “It’s a wonderful agency. And I think more than anything I want to be here because we are helping those that need the most help. We are helping the least of these.”
His first job with LSC was a part-time residential counselor position in a South Carolina group home, which he took to supplement his income when his wife went back to school. In that home, he worked with young men who he said had some challenging behaviors and past family issues. However, he fell in love with it.
“In doing that, I found a passion and love,” Cochran said. “It was God’s calling.”
Cochran talks fondly about those early years. His goal was to give the young men as many new experiences and opportunities as possible.
Since Cochran was on the swim team at Johnson C. Smith University, many of those experiences involved water.
“I used to love to take the guys fishing and try to expose them to as many different things as we possibly could. I would teach them how to swim and go off the diving board, and just basic water rescue skills,” he said. “I realized that I grew up sheltered in a sense, when I worked at the group home. I grew up in a family and community that practiced unconditional love. It wasn’t until I started working here that I realized that everybody didn’t have that same opportunity.”
Embodying the LSC Way in all he does
Over the years, Cochran continued to move up the ranks in LSC and he is now a training coordinator in Columbia, South Carolina. In this role, he says he does “whatever is needed.”
“I help incoming employees with required trainings, try to assist in providing trainings in crisis management for residential services,” he said. “And for the staff that work with children, we do CPR, first aid, therapeutic crisis and intervention trainings. We try to offer a variety along with what’s required, so we can help people be efficient and be able to do their job.”
In 2020, Cochran was selected by his child and family teammates as the LSC Way “You are the Key Teammate” of the year. The LSC Way is a culture of exceptional customer service that aligns the mission, vision, and values of Lutheran Services Carolinas. The program encourages all LSC teammates to lead by example, serve joyfully, communicate consistently, welcome all, and ensure abundant living for all. Teammates who embody these qualities are recognized through various awards throughout the year. The You are the Key award is given to the exceptional teammate who exemplifies all of these qualities consistently.
When they nominated him for the award, Cochran’s teammates said he embodies all of the elements of the LSC Way.
“In the 24 years I have worked with Chris, I don’t think I have ever heard him say ‘no.’ He just always helps find a way. He works tirelessly to ensure every individual served lives as abundantly as possible,” Director of Community and Rehabilitative Services Bethany Vause said. “Departments and job descriptions don’t mean anything to Chris. He is always willing to help anyone, anywhere.”
George Knox, quality management coordinator, is the teammate who hired Cochran all those years ago. He said he can count him as more than someone he works with. He says Cochran is his friend.
“He always had an emphasis on the kids. You can tell that he puts them first but also demanded their respect. The kids always knew he cared about them and so their relationships were always good. As his supervisor I could always count on him,” Knox said. “Now in his role as the trainer, he uses that same mentality of putting others first to train staff over both states. I have seen him leave to go to North Carolina late in the afternoon to train staff so they could work get back to Columbia late at night and be back in the office the next morning to train staff in South Carolina so they could work.”
According to his teammates, Cochran volunteers to serve in any capacity at all events held in Columbia, South Carolina, offers to pray and bless meals, helps carry boxes, holds the door, and greets visitors. He also graciously accepts any new challenges and keeps going with a smile and positive attitude.
“The real tribute to Chris is that he’s not just putting on a show for work, he actually lives his personal life this way as well. Chris epitomizes the LSC Way in every way, every single day,” a teammate who wished to remain anonymous said. “I can’t say enough about how he embodies the LSC Way.”
But in true LSC Way fashion, Cochran takes none of the credit when his coworkers share these thoughts. During a recent All LSC virtual meeting, Cochran was asked to speak about the LSC Way and what Lutheran Services Carolinas means to him.
“We work with so many people that have a variety of skills sets and are so talented…way more talented than I could ever be. They are wonderful. I look up to my teammates,” he said. “They are out here doing the best they can every day to help and sacrifice and give of themselves. Everything that everybody does is important.”